Carnival Cruise Line has announced it will resume regular calls to Grand Bahama Island starting Friday, October 11, since Hurricane Dorian, which caused heavy damage to Grand Bahama and the Abacos. Carnival Pride will make the first call that day, docking in Freeport, followed by calls from the Carnival Elation on Sunday, October 13 and Carnival Freedom on Tuesday, October 15. The Carnival Pride departed Baltimore on Sunday, October 6, on a week-long cruise with nearly 2,400 guests.
All told between now and the end of the year, Carnival said that it expects to host 39 calls in Freeport, bringing more than 100,000 visitors to the destination and providing a significant impact to the local economy. For the full year, over 400,000 guests will visit Grand Bahama on a Carnival cruise vacation aboard 10 different ships sailing from nine U.S. homeports.
During the calls guests will be able to go on more than 15 shore excursions, including The All Inclusive Beach Club; A Select Retreat with Beach and Water Toys; and the VIP Luxury Sail.
On Monday, Carnival Ecstasy arrived in Freeport to undergo an extensive 12-day dry dock at the Grand Bahama shipyard, becoming the first cruise ship to utilize the facility since Hurricane Dorian.
The company’s relief efforts include a $2 million pledge from Carnival Corporation and the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation, as well as relief shipments delivered by Carnival Cruise Line ships and via a partnership with Tropical Shipping. Carnival employees and guests have also donated well over $500,000 through online giving tools and collections on embarkation day and onboard.
Since the storm Bahamas tourism officials have been looking to the travel sector, which comprises half of the country’s GDP, to help fund relief and rebuilding efforts on Grand Bahama and the Abacos. While much of their efforts have focused on the 14 of 17 major islands that suffered no damage from the storm, officials have also said that a quick return of travelers to Grand Bahama island is important as well.
“People are going to lose hope if there’s not some stimulation going in,” Ellison Thompson, deputy director general, ministry of tourism and aviation for the Bahamas, said during a recent media briefing at Travel Leaders Group’s New York offices, noting that Hurricane Dorian was the second major storm to hit Grand Bahama in three years.
The tourism ministry and Travel Leaders Group have also partnered on the “Travel Helps the Bahamas” campaign, which will aim to encourage travelers to visit the Bahamas in order to aid its recovery. In addition to a travel advisor education and marketing effort to promote the Bahamas for the fall and winter travel season, Travel Leaders Group will also match money donated by its advisor community through its foundations to aid the Bahamas relief efforts.
Meanwhile, new tourism projects in the destination are still underway. Carnival Corporation has announced plans for two major new cruise developments, one of which will be on Grand Bahama Island. Additionally, Thompson said that the destination is getting additional airlift, including a new Delta flight from Boston to Nassau and additional capacity out of Atlanta to Eleuthera and Exuma. Air Canada is also doubling its winter flights between Montreal and Nassau starting in December, and American Airlines is increasing the size of its aircraft going into Nassau and Eleuthera.